Online journalism has both advantages and limitations. This is due to the many characteristics and issues specific to the medium.
One of the most significant advantages of online journalism is its immediacy. Prior to the development of online journalism radio was the most immediate medium, with news bulletins every thirty minutes or every hour. However the online environment allows for much greater immediacy. Journalists in this medium have the unique ability to publish news events as they happen. They can then update the stories to include subsequent information easily and speedily at any time of the day or night. As soon as the information is uploaded to the web, it is available around the globe.
Other advantages of online journalism relate to other medium-specific characteristics. The incorporation of multimedia elements makes news websites more informative and entertaining. Hyperlinks, blogs and discussion forums allow web-users a more hands on experience, allowing them to be participants in the news process (Millison, 2004). The archiving ability of news websites is also a great advantage as it provides an extensive research resource to the public.
Another advantage of online journalism is that the medium is reflecting changes in society as well as technology. About one hundred million people access the world wide web and the number is ever increasing (De Wolk, 2001: 175). As online information can be accessed at any time it is a convenient way for people to stay up-to-date on local, national and world news.
Despite the numerous advantages of online journalism, there are also limitations. The benefit of immediacy can give rise to some serious ethical issues. The desire to publish brand new information and the ease of which it can be altered may cause information to be made accessible before it is verified. This undermines the journalistic principle of accuracy and can lead to misinformation. Another potential problem is the dilemma of breaking a news story immediately on the internet and therefore alerting rival news outlets, or waiting to break the news in another medium and have an exclusive story (De Wolk, 2001).
Other limitations are more general. The immense size of cyberspace and the extent of information available may intimidate audiences and cause information overload (Hall, 2001). Furthermore, it may be difficult for audiences to distinguish between credible news websites and other non-official news websites. This can lead to confusion and misinformation. There are also limitations in online journalism regarding the issues of surveillance, censorship and privacy.